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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Oct 8 1997
Shotgun Freeway
It's turning out to be the Year of L.A. The two best American movies of 1997, Boogie Nights and L.A. Confidential, both plunge headlong into Los Angeles' mythical, not-so-distant past, and Wim Wenders' fascinating The End of Violence pokes at its overmediated present. Morgan Neville and Harry Pallenberg's Shotgun Freeway does both, cruising through the city then and now, literally and figuratively, in a long two-tone convertible. The film is a mosh pit of found footage and interviews, sharply contrasting scratchy old civic booster films and clips from L.A.-based TV shows ("This is the city of Los Angeles, 458 square miles of metal, concrete, and humanity," Jack Webb announces in one clip) with pungent commentary from such talkative natives as Joan Didion on freeway fear, Buck Henry on show biz, LAPD Homicide Detective John "Jigsaw" St. John on crime, James Ellroy (whose self-promotional murdered-mother shtick gets a little tiresome here) on panty-sniffing, musician Buddy Collette and impresario Gene Norman on the old Central Avenue jazz club scene, and the always droll and articulate Mike Davis himself on sewers, suburbs, Franciscan monks, and Dodger Stadium. The film is broken up into chapters like "The Beach" (with filmmaker John Milius on his old surfing days), "The Valley" (in which architectural historian Margaret Crawford makes even Pacoima seem fascinating and mysterious), and, of course, "Hollywood." L.A. is a meaty subject, and the film isn't exactly comprehensive (that would make Shotgun Freeway the length of Ken Burns' The Civil War), but it's definitely the scenic route through the L.A. Basin, a land built on sunshine and speculation.

-- Tod Booth

Shotgun Freeway screens Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 9 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant (at College) in Berkeley. (An accompanying panel discussion, "The Dark Raptures of Mike Davis' L.A.," starts at 7 p.m. and is free with regular admission.) Tickets are $5.50; call (510) 642-1124 for more information.

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Tod Booth


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